As if the Lakers weren’t already getting shoved around by long odds, they suited up only three guards Friday against San Antonio.
They weren’t real thrilled about it.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak responded unhappily to the NBA’s decision to suspend Ronnie Price one game after a flagrant foul 2 was called on him Wednesday against New Orleans.
Price was ejected after making contact with Austin Rivers while the Pelicans guard drove to the basket with 9:11 to play. The NBA followed up a day later with a one-game suspension, leaving Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin and rookie Jordan Clarkson as the Lakers’ only guards against the Spurs.
“We feel that the contact came from an attempt to block the shot and that there was no intent to hit Austin Rivers in the head, and therefore we are disappointed in the league’s decision,” Kupchak said in a statement Friday.
The Lakers weren’t the only ones with raised eyebrows.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said he had “zero concern” with the incident. He also happens to be Austin’s father.
“I didn’t like seeing my son go down, but it’s part of the game,” he said Thursday. “In this day, it’s a flagrant 2, but that old move where you try to swipe and hit the head happened a lot when we played…. It wasn’t a dirty play. It just happened.”
The Lakers are short-handed in the backcourt because Wayne Ellington is on indefinite leave since the death of his father, and Steve Nash is sidelined for the season.
The Lakers hold high hopes for Clarkson, the 46th pick in the draft last June, but his playing time has dwindled since the first two games.
He didn’t get off the bench earlier this week against Charlotte, the Lakers’ only victory, and played under six minutes in four other games.
“I’m not seeing much time, but I know it’s a process,” Clarkson said. “It’s hard watching, and of course I want to be on the floor, but I know it’s my first year. I have to learn a lot. When I get the opportunity to come on the court, I want to affect the game in a good way.”
Saturday is an important day for Ellington and Price, at least financially, when their contracts became partially guaranteed.
Price will now make at least $329,202 this season, and Ellington is up to at least $315,646.
Both players signed contracts before training camp without full guarantees but have become rotation players.
If they’re still on the roster in early January, their money becomes fully guaranteed, Price for $1.3 million and Ellington for $1.1 million. The average NBA salary is about $5.5 million.